NYC, teachers’ group appeal for release of 15 hostaged teachers, students in Agusan Sur

PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur  (MindaNews/03 April) — The National Youth Commission, the government’s policy-making body on youth affairs, has appealed to the hostage-takers of 15 teachers and students in a remote barangay in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur to “immediately release their hostages and to cease from resorting to acts that further violate basic human rights and freedoms especially that of the children.”

The hostages have remained in captivity since 4 p.m. Friday, even as Datu Ondo Perez, whom  they demanded should be released from jail in exchange for the freedom of the hostages, has been released reportedly temporarily last Saturday, to negotiate with the abductors who are his relatives.

“Wag na po nating idamay ang mga guro at mag-aaral. Lalo na po ang mga kabataang walang kalaban-laban. Let us shield them from harm’s way. We appeal to their sense of reason to immediately release these hostages.” (Let us not involve the teachers and students, especially the youth who are defenseless), NYC chair Leon Flores III said in his appeal to the hostage-takers.

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) also called on fellow teachers to “use the prayer power to immediately end the hostage crisis” in Agusan del Sur. Teachers nationwide are enjoined to offer prayers and light candles at 6 p.m. Sunday, for the release of the hostages.

Armed men who held captive 15 persons since 4 p.m. Friday have reportedly demanded the release of Perez who was jailed for  holding hostage 125 students and teachers in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur in December 2009.

The Crisis Management Committee (CMC) has identified the  hostage-takers as Allan Perez aka Ilag, Ondo’s brother; Allan’s son, Kenken; one alias Toto Navarro, Rejoy Brital and Alejandro Brital, all relatives of Ondo Perez. The hostage-takers are reportedly armed with one M14 rifle, one M16 armalite and one carbine rifle.

Among the hostages are the Agusan del Sur school division supervisor, a school supervisor for district II, six teachers and two elementary students.

In a press statement, NYC’s Flores said they condemn “acts that expose the vulnerable youth to senseless conflicts. We have full trust and confidence in our law enforcers to uphold the rule of law and find the most appropriate and speedy resolution to this serious matter.”

Felipe Degamo, Jr., president of Digos City National High School Teachers’ and Employees Association (DICNHSTEA) and vice chair for Mindanao of Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) said in a press statement that they are hoping for a positive response from the abductors who are now in negotiation with the government officials.

“We heard that the kidnappers are cooperating and we hope that this crisis will end very soon,” he said.

“We call on all our colleagues in Mindanao as well as in Luzon and Visayas to join us in this prayer from their respective churches, chapels and mosques.” Degamo added.

Initial reports said the armed group led by Navarro Alejandro Brital, 18, abducted the victims in Purok 7, Sitio Balite in Barangay La Purisima at around 4 pm on April 1.

The victims, who attended the recognition rites at the Valentina G. Plaza Primary School in Sitio Balite were reportedly walking when blocked by gunmen who herded them towards the mountains.

Prosperidad mayor Albin Magdamit on Saturday assured relatives that the hostages are safe.

Magdamit said the armed group took hostages to demand the release of Perez, a former member of the Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), who is now facing kidnapping and multiple murder cases and detained at the Provincial Jail in Patin-ay, Prosperidad.

In 2009, Perez and his armed group attacked the Maitum Elementary School and held schoolchildren hostage in Sitio Maitum, Barangay San Martin.

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition on Saturday called on President Aquino to give priority to the hostage crisis in Agusan and appealed to the abductors not to harm the hostages.

Still in captivity, according to the list from the Crisis Management Committee, are Hipolito Lastimado, school division supervisor; Narciso Oliveros, district II, school supervisor; Joel Sausa, Values teacher, Sta. Irene Elementary School; Apolonio Alibangbang, head teacher, La Purisima Elementary School;  Manuel Mordeno, teacher-in-charge of Maasin Elementary School; Allan Galdiano, teacher; Filipina Quitoy, teacher-in-charge of Inagawan Elementary School; Arnold Quitoy, Filipina’s husband; Diosdideth Canbantac, teacher-in-charge, Valentina G. Plaza pre-school; Mary Jane Bedrijo, pre-school teacher;  Marvin Jay Corvera, 13; Sirena Fe Cabantac, 10;

Also held hostages were drivers of motorcycles-for-hire Zaldy Rodriguez and Ribo Binambang and a passenger named Galvan Vocales.

Earlier reports said 16 were abducted. Later it was reported only 14 were taken. (Alexis Cabardo and Max Tutor/DXSF for MindaNews)